Hundreds of elderly Britons will be screened for dementia through a new pilot scheme in 2023

The NHS has announced hundreds more people will be screened for dementia as part of a new specialist service being trialled across the country.

Care home residents will be proactively assessed for condition by specialist nurses and other healthcare professionals through 14 new pilot schemes being rolled out in the new year.

There has been a significant drop in rates of dementia diagnoses during the pandemic, leading to concerns of more people living with the condition without access to appropriate support and advice.

But experts say the new trial will help reduce the number of missed cases.

There are many diseases that cause dementia, which is classified as an impairment in the ability to remember, think, or make decisions that interfere with doing daily activities (file image)

As part of the local dementia campaigns, GPs will share a list of residents in care homes without a diagnosis of dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a class of symptoms that are characterized by behavioral changes and the progressive deterioration of cognitive and social abilities.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, but other dementias include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be caused by an abnormal buildup of proteins in and around brain cells.

According to forecasts by Alzheimer’s Research UK, one million people in the country will develop dementia by 2025, and this number will double to two million by 2050.

Staff involved in the pilot program will check with the care home to see if those listed have memory problems and a full face-to-face assessment will be given to residents.

They will then review the patient’s medication use, as well as talk to friends and family to determine if they may have dementia.

Two pilots will be launched in each of England’s seven regions from January, following a £900,000 investment from NHS England.

A successful trial in Norfolk saw 100 care home residents give face-to-face assessments, with 95 people receiving a dementia diagnosis.

A family member of a resident who was diagnosed as a result of the trial said it “gave her peace of mind.”

Professor Alistair Burns, National Medical Director of Dementia for NHS England, said: ‘The pandemic has had a normalizing effect on the number of people diagnosed with dementia, with older people seeing fewer people to protect themselves from Covid-19.

The NHS is determined to ensure that those who develop dementia are diagnosed during the pandemic as it will open doors to further support for people and their families living with this heart-breaking condition.

There are so many things we can do in the NHS to look after and support people if they get a diagnosis, and most importantly there is support for their families and carers too.

There are different diseases that can cause dementia.  Many of them are related to an abnormal buildup of proteins in the brain.  This buildup causes neurons to function less well and eventually die (stock image)

There are different diseases that can cause dementia. Many of them are related to an abnormal buildup of proteins in the brain. This buildup causes neurons to function less well and eventually die (stock image)

High blood pressure at night may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

A 2021 study found that men with higher blood pressure at night than during the day are 1.6 times more likely to develop dementia.

The researchers tracked a sample of Swedish men in their 70s who had higher blood pressure at night than during the day – known as ‘reverse dipping’.

They were compared with men of the same age who had higher blood pressure during the day than at night, which is considered normal.

After tracking both groups of men for symptoms of dementia, they found that reverse dipping mainly increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, as well as dementia as a whole.

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So, if over the festive period you notice someone developing symptoms, please encourage them to visit their GP for an assessment – the earlier someone is seen, the faster the NHS can provide support.

The latest NHS figures show 451,992 people in England have a dementia diagnosis, up 2.8 per cent on last year.

Data shows referrals to memory services are now back to pre-pandemic levels with 301,218 in 2021/22.

Mark McDonald, associate director of advocacy and system change at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘A diagnosis of dementia is critical to unlocking appropriate care and support, so we are delighted that NHS England is prioritizing the diagnosis of people in care homes through this initiative.

Learning that someone has dementia can change their care, ensuring that they receive the right kind of support, and that families and carers get the information and guidance they need, too, after a diagnosis.

We know that the vast majority of those diagnosed with dementia see it as a positive, albeit often life-changing, step. If successful, we want to see this pilot model rolled out as soon as possible across England as well as focus on improving dementia diagnosis for everyone, inside and outside care homes.

Mental health nurse Laura Hudson, 45, of Kings Lynn, Norfolk, has had her mother Pam, a former nurse, 80, diagnosed with dementia thanks to the pilot.

She said: She was a general nurse for 20 years but people who knew her then don’t recognize her now.

She won’t eat if you don’t make her eat. You won’t drink unless you make it.

I am relieved and glad that she has dementia because it means that people realize that they have to go deeper with her. If you ask her if she is okay she will say she is fine but sometimes you have to ask a little more than that to get to the bottom of things.

“She is getting good care where she is, but the diagnosis gives me peace of mind that if she does have to go to a hospital, she will be treated appropriately there.”

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Older adults in polluted areas are ‘more likely to develop’ Alzheimer’s

A new study in JAMA Neurology warns that elderly people who live in polluted areas are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers looked at PET (positron emission tomography) scans of more than 18,000 elderly people in the United States with dementia or mild cognitive impairment.

They then plotted their zip codes and determined air pollution levels in each neighborhood based on EPA data, which measures the level of ground-level ozone and pollution particles in the air less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, known as PM2.5.

Researchers found that positron emission tomography scans from older adults living in the most polluted areas were 10 percent more likely to show amyloid plaques — tough proteins that clump together between nerve cells.

Although not all types of dementia are associated with these plaques, they are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

First author Dr Leonardo Iaccarino said: ‘Exposure in our daily lives to PM2.5, even at levels considered normal, can contribute to triggering a chronic inflammatory response.

Over time, this can affect brain health in a number of ways, including contributing to the buildup of amyloid plaques.

The researchers found that the more pollutants there were in the air, the more likely people were to have amyloid plaques.

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